“Andor” is the first Star Wars story to truly jettison the space western epic framework and to instead treat the story of a galaxy far far away like the serious world it deserves to be. In this narrative, rather than a hero driven story with Jedi and dark lords, we instead get believable, dynamic characters with interesting complexity and motivations like the depth of a serious drama.
Because to take Star Wars seriously is to reckon with the abject rule of an empire’s banal cruelty and the suffering of those under it. It means to show how characters find themselves joining revolution and rebellion against the Empire, and the consequences for doing so, directly showing grief and loss without using it as a shortcut gimmick. This brilliant realism provides a welcomed novelty to break up the doldrums of Disney pumping a constant assembly line of content.
The Star Wars universe is fun, but most of its shows and movies generated since the original trilogy have a Marvel-esque fan service problem of being overly self-referential. This is a natural inclination for any franchise and all good fun, but these glimpses rarely reach something fairly considered great. Side adventures delving into things like what Boba Fett or Obi-Wan were up to in between movies have their moments, but overall they prove diminishing creative returns for the universe.
Star Wars’ weakness has always been that it fails to grasp the endless possibilities of an infinite universe while simultaneously condensing such vastness into a singular narrative. “Andor” instead presents compelling intrigue, politics, and subterfuge that perfectly captures the core spirit of the Star Wars universe while also reinventing what that core spirit can emotionally render. “Rogue One,” the chronological sequel to “Andor,” was also an original Star Wars story that broke this mold and was good in its own right, but “Andor” has refined the best of that energy to our benefit.
The first season will be a tough act to follow. It is so smart and well written that the world should hold its breath to see if the magic can be recaptured. The strength of each episode individually and collectively is encouraging. “Andor” is arguably the best Star Wars has been since the first films, and is brimming with originality, sidestepping most elements of an unwieldly saga history while also perfectly complimenting them. Perhaps Season 2 holds cringe cameos of Jar Jar and Darth Maul, but “Andor” Season 1 might be the closest thing to perfection Star Wars has seen in our lifetimes.